The Kingdom **** (out of ****)

Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Chris Cooper, Ashraf Barhom
Rating: R (violence, language)
Running Time: 110 min
Release Date: 9/28/2007

With Hollywood going all out this year to trash America in the war on terror, The Kingdom is a pleasant surprise. This movie opens with a brief synopsis of the development of the U.S.- Saudi relationship from the discovery of oil in the Arabian Peninsula until 9/11. Then it transitions to a terrorist attack that kills 100 American oil workers and family members at children’s softball game in a closed compound in Saudi Arabia. The FBI, which is the agency responsible for investigation attacks on Americans abroad, is blocked from sending in a team by the State Department which is concerned about Saudi sensitivities.

Lead FBI agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) is determined to get the terrorists and blackmails a Saudi diplomat with claim that he has evidence of involvement of the royal family in financing terrorism. With that the team of Fleury, pathologist Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), intel analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), and explosives expert Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) are on their way to the Arabian Peninsula. The interplay of the various government agencies seems quite real. Anything but getting the terrorists seem to take priority with the State Department and the Attorney General.

Upon their arrival they are met by Col. Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), chief of the Saudi Police, who plays a complex and sympathetic role as the intermediary between the American agents and the labyrinth that is Saudi Arabia. Al-Ghazi has been replaced by an army general in the investigation of the terrorist attack. His role is reduced to making sure the Americans survive their five day stay. Initially Al-Ghazi places obstacles in the way of the investigation at every turn but eventually comes to realize that Fleury’s team brings useful skills that may solve the case. While there are always cultural obstacles to be overcome, many having to with Muslim taboo’s that restrict the activities of Garner’s character, eventually Fleury and Al-Ghazi become partners determined to catch the terrorist leader. Action fans will not be disappointed in the thirty minute finale.

This is a sophisticated action movie that strikes a careful balance between a giving fair portrayal of the intricacies with the U.S.-Saudi relationship and the war on terror on one hand and fast paced action on the other. Most refreshing of all is that this movie is on our side and from Hollywood in 2007 that is notable.

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